The Crazies (2010)

(In theatres, March 2010) On paper, this film doesn’t look like much: A remake of a 1973 Romero film about people being transformed into zombies, er, crazy psychotics?  Another take on the good old “Government will KILL YOU the first chance it gets” paranoia?  Yet another familiar ZOMBIE ZOMBIER ZOMBIEST film like 28 Days/Weeks Later?  Not interested.  And yet, even though most of The Crazies plays like a dirt-simple genre horror film, it is –for all of its conceptual lack of originality- well-made enough to hold attention even when it indulges in well-worn clichés and nonsensical set-pieces.  Despite a second act lull and a predictable late-film eruption of zombies, the direction is snappy, the writing is adequate and the actors do what they can with what they’re given.  Unlike the original, the film is sparse with explanations, and (at the notable exception of a few ominous satellite shots) limits its perspective what the protagonists can learn: the minuscule amount of exposition happens at a frantic pace.  The subtext about government intervention is far, far less important that the genre chills and thrills, and takes a back-seat to a convincing portrait of small-town Midwestern America.  Timothy Oliphant turns in a fine performance as the sheriff-protagonist, while director Breck Eisner may end up proving that there is life after the underwhelming Sahara.  Until his next film, though, The Crazies is a rare competent horror film remake that rises above a hum-drum premise to deliver a decent entertainment experience.

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